Crack! Boom! The sound of big fat pebbles pounding the roof and rattling windows. Maybe it’s the Nazis coming to get us!
That afternoon my brother Stan and I saw a war movie at a theatre near our home in the Bronx, N.Y. We watched as mighty John Wayne, surrounded by Nazi bombers, blasted each one to smithereens. Down they went — dying dragons, hurling plumes of fire and screeching defiantly. Actually Stan saw all this. Most of it I only heard, since I’d wrapped my head in his sweater about half an hour into the movie.
Pulling my rose-petaled blanket around me, I tiptoed my 5-year-old self to the window. Added to the cracking and booming, streak after streak of blinding light splintered the night sky. I knew it. We were doomed.
“Daddee!” I called. “Daddee! Help.”
“Va’ts the matter ketzelah?” I heard from the doorway. A moment later, my father’s strong muscled arms gently lifted me to his chest; my head cuddled into his neck. Freeing one arm, he moved a chair from the far side of the room, to the window near my bed. He sat down and placed me in his lap. We both looked at the ferocious storm.
“It’s OK, Mimele. Ve’re safe inside and vhat’s happening outside is so interesting.” Softly, he explained what was going on. I don’t remember his exact words, but whatever he said introduced me to the wonder of science. I began to see the connection between lightning and the crashing thunder — the difference between the speeds of light and sound. As he continued talking, my small tense body relaxed. Terror faded, replaced by intrigue and awe.
Still, I winced a bit, as another bolt of lightning tore through the sky. My father settled me more comfortably and whispered, “How lucky you are. G-d just painted a picture in the sky for you. Let’s see vhat else he’ll paint.” We watched and saw a blazing staircase, a crazily shaped tree, the silhouette of a giant’s gaunt face, fantastical designs, no two ever the same. After each one, the same loud booms. But now they sounded like the heavens applauding each split-second light show.
All that was 68 years ago. But since that night, when a monster thunderstorm hits and I’m able to, I run to a window or open a door and watch. As I gaze, my father’s arms still surround me, his voice still whispers in my ear … and I smile.
Miriam Furst is a freelance writer in Tucson.